From AP:

Seven inmates escaped from a high-security prison over the weekend in western Kosovo, and police backed by NATO helicopters launched a manhunt throughout the province, authorities said Monday.

The convicts, on a scheduled walk in a yard at Dubrava prison late Saturday, were supported by an armed group who shot at guards….Two senior prison officials and two prison guards were arrested on suspicion of involvement, Elshani said. No injuries were reported.

Police said they found six unused rocket launchers and shell casings from automatic rifles at the site of the gunbattle. The inmates, some convicted of terrorism, murder and theft, were believed to still be in the province, but police have notified authorities in neighboring countries.

More, from Beta:

Kosovo Police Service (KPS) spokesman Veton Elshani told B92 the group was lead [sic] by Faton Hajrizi.

“Hajrizi is known to the public as a suspect in the murder of a Russian KFOR soldier in 2000,” he said, adding that Burim Basha, Amir Sopa, Astrit Shabani, Ramadan Shuti, Davit Morina and Lirim Jakupi were also among the escaped convicts.

Say, I thought that Kosovo terrorists aren’t Albanian. From The London Times:

Among the escapees were Ramadan Shiti, a Saudi-born suspected Islamist terrorist expelled from his native country for allegedly plotting an attack on senior public figures, and Lirim Jakupi, a leader of the rebel Albanian National Army — a group of guerrillas who fight for a greater Albanian state in the Balkans.

Wait a second, wait a second. There are Albanians actively engaged in securing a Greater Albania? But we were told for two decades that this was just a Serbian myth — propaganda to dupe the internationals into thinking that there’s a bigger picture to Kosovo independence. And yet in his book The Coming Balkan Caliphate, Chris Deliso writes:

Emboldened by their victory over the Serbs in Kosovo, irredentists sought to take the next step….Indeed, as Ali Ahmeti, the chief of the Albanians’ so-called National Liberation Army (NLA), told a Western journalist in March 2001, “our aim is solely to remove [Macedonian] Slav forces from territory which is historically Albanian.” Long after the conflict, one of Ahmeti’s former commanders would state, “like all wars, ours was for territory — not because of some ‘human rights’ problem!” Nevertheless, skilled Albanian propagandists were able to portray the war as a Kosovo redux — another struggle for human rights waged by an oppressed people…

But back to the prison break: UN wants probe into Kosovo prison break-out

Five prison guards have been charged with aiding Saturday’s break-out, and four other people have been arrested on suspicion of providing covering fire for the escape outside the prison walls with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades.

The United Nations, which has around 1,300 police officers in the province, has no direct role at the prison. But the escape is an embarrassment for the mission and the 16,000-strong NATO-led peace force.

One of those who broke out was armed with a pistol, while another was making his seventh escape from prison. A Kosovo police spokesman acknowledged the convicts might already have slipped across the province’s porous borders into neighbouring Macedonia, Montenegro or Albania.

Fugitives planning to destabilize Macedonia if partition of Kosovo (From Macedonian newspaper Dnevnik):

Jakupi’s task is said to be preparing the grounds for Macedonia’s destabilization in the event of Kosovo’s partition. Apparently, a large amount of money has been collected for the implementation of this scenario, which is also supported by political entities in Kosovo and Macedonia.

Two more incidents shook our northern border in the Kosovo area this month. Gosince police station came under attack in early August, while arms from the same station were stolen several days later…Unofficially, a few days prior to these incidents, the security services had noticed movement of two uniformed groups in that area.

In the Sunday Times piece, a spokesman for something called the Foreign and Commonwealth Office “rejected suggestions that the break-out would disrupt further the international search for a solution to Kosovo’s status but said that the incident showed the urgency of progress to end the impasse over its future.”

Let’s briefly examine this statement. Whereas some of us rational folks suspected that as the Albanians got closer to their goal of independence this year, and another Albanian state — even a partitioned one — was within their reach, they’d pull “a Palestinian” by sabotaging their goal via violence at the last minute. Well, the latter part of the prediction came true — the violence — but not the sabotage. Yes, they’re amping up the violence, but they’re not sabotaging anything — just the opposite: they’re getting the international community to hurry up and give them what they want. Which means they pulled the classic Palestinian: As you get closer to your goal, you reject it coming from the internationals and you start Intifadah 2 — and double the media’s and internationals’ sympathy.

The aforementioned London Times article also had the following:

Wolfgang Ischinger, the EU representative to the talks, caused controversy earlier this month by appearing to suggest that the province could be partitioned along ethnic lines if that was acceptable to both sides, with the north staying with Serbia and independence for the south. He later clarified his remarks saying that he did not support partition.

This reminds me of another recent “clarification”:

General Kather: There Are No Indications of Violence in Kosova [sic]

The commander of the KFOR peacekeeping troops, General Roland Kather, said today in Gjilan that there are no indications of possible violence in Kosova [sic], adding that his statement of several days ago on this issue was misinterpreted.

He made these comments following a farewell meeting with the commander of the Multinational Brigade East, General Douglas Earhart, municipal authorities of Gjilan, Novoberde [Novo Brdo], and the commander of the Kosova [sic] Protection Corps (TMK) Zone 6, General Imri Iliazi.

Kather said that his statement that status must be resolved quickly as violence may break out was misinterpreted.

“I am very much convinced from the meeting throughout Kosova [sic] that there is no proof of any violence in Kosova [sic], and this is because the citizens have understood that the Kosova[sic] status settlement process is a political process which requires a political resolution,” he said.

But pay attention to his last two sentences, as they contain encoded messages:

The outgoing KFOR commander said that people have understood that violence leads toward a dead end, warning that if there is violence there will be no settlement.

Codebreaker: Hint-hint — if you want your state, put the violence on hold.

General Kather said that he was proud that the situation in this region and in Kosova in general is safe and calm, expressing his hope that it will remain such in the future as well.

Codebreaker: The stuff is about to hit the fan! [i.e. his original, retracted message]

(Just a side note: the commander most likely did not use the word “Kosova”, but that report came from a website called “KosovaLive,” so presumably the spelling is a misquote.)

Disclaimer: Istok, where the prison break occurred, is not — I repeat NOT — in Nicki Fellenzer’s/Brad Staggs’ sector. So they probably haven’t heard about it.

More Daily Kosovo: Kosovo police seizes 68 kilos of explosive

The explosives, 68 kilos of what is believed to be TNT, [were] discovered in a private house in Vitomirica, a village in the area of Pec, 80 kilometres west of Pristina, Kosovo police spokesman Veton Elshani told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

One person was arrested following the find, Elshani said, adding that more details would be announced later. Sources close to the police said the arrested man was a Kosovo Albanian.

*****UPDATE*****

Below is a related Dnevnik item from today:


KOSOVO FUGITIVES’ “PRESENCE” IN MACEDONIA “NOT ACCIDENTAL” - SECURITY SOURCES/Kosovo will be Defended in Tanusevci
(BBC Monitoring International Reports, Aug. 23, 2007)

The fled Kosovo inmates will try to divert the international community’s attention to Kosovo regarding the negotiations on the province’s final status, by provoking minor incidents in Macedonia and southern Serbia, senior security sources claim. Yesterday they confirmed to Dnevnik that the group was primarily hiding near Tanusevci.

The only person who categorically denies that there are unwanted guests in Tanusevci is Xhezair Shaqiri, a former Assembly deputy and ONA [National Liberation Army, NLA - UCK in Albanian] commander.

“There is not a single person in the village from another place. If necessary, the residents will show their identification cards,” Shaqiri, who comes from this border village, claims.

According to Dnevnik reports, the seven inmates’ escape is neither accidental, nor naive. They claim that part of the group has been stationed in Tanusevci and part has been “mobile” in the Presevo Valley for organizational preparations.

“All our indicators point out that the escape from the prison was not accidental. It was by no chance that precisely these seven persons escaped and precisely at this point. By raising tension in Macedonia and southern Serbia, around Bujanovac, they should improve the Kosovo side’s position in the talks…” political-security sources claim.

They stress that, following the changes in the negotiations on the province’s status, when it comes to Macedonia, it is important to retain the current principles for the status determination set by [UN] mediator Martti Ahtisaari. This in particular refers to the principle of the province’s inviolable external borders, which should remain the same as on 10 June 1999, when NATO entered Kosovo.

They warn that the armed groups will act if the option of Kosovo’s partition is accepted. Their possible ways of operation may be a series of minor incidents or “occupying a village” in order to incite tension and attract the international community’s attention…

Of course, the reality is they’re going to “act” for their pan-Albanian state whether Kosovo is partitioned or not. At least the partition scenario is getting them to admit the grand scheme.

*****3 UPDATES*****

Kosovo division in our interest as then pan-Albanian state to be created - KLA (BBC Monitoring Europe, Aug. 29, Text of report by Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA)

Sofia, 29 Aug: The secretary of the veterans organization of the Kosovo Liberation Army [KLA], Faton Klinaku, has warned that Kosovo’s division must be carried out in line with international principles: the right to self-determination, ethnic principle and the principle of majority.

“These principles should be applied not just to Kosovo but to Presevo [southern Serbia], Macedonia and Montenegro,” Kliniku told Bulgarian media.

According to him, wherever there are Albanians there will be Albania, and this will happen if Kosovo is divided.

“In the final analysis, these developments are in our interest since then all Albanians would be unified in one state,” Kliniku said.

(Of course, whether such a fate is in anyone’s interest — including Albanians’ — is a matter of great debate.)

COMMENTARY SAYS CHOICE BETWEEN UN KOSOVO PLAN OR PAN-ALBANIAN STATE (BBC Monitoring International Reports, Aug. 26, Text of report by Albanian newspaper Koha Jone on 22 August)

[Commentary by Xhavit Shala: “Tectonic Movements in Balkan Geopolitics”]

Recent developments regarding the final resolution of Kosova’s status…a practically official trend towards Kosova’s partitioning, attempts to dismiss the Ahtisaari plan;…and granting legitimacy to the idea that multiethnic states have failed in the Balkans….

Under these circumstances, attempts to change Kosova’s borders are provoking the Albanians and creating a situation that would call for a change of borders throughout the Balkans. At the same time, they are creating the conditions and potential for the Albanians to organize and channel their national question towards its final solution, that is, the unification of all Albanian-inhabited lands and the formation of an Albanian national state.

“We have to sacrifice the Albanian people for the sake of peace in Europe,” British Prime Minister Edward Grey said at the 1913 London Ambassadors’ Conference, which decided that half of the Albanian-inhabited territories were to remain outside the borders of the newly formed Albanian state. Now, some 100 years on, the Albanians will not accept being sacrificed for the sake of the “sacred unity of the EU”….

Availing themselves of the restraint and submission of the Kosova Albanians and their trust in Western support for their cause, some European circles intend either to leave Kosova in a state of frozen conflict or to partition it. These circles have forgotten that, when the Albanians saw that their peaceful movement was getting them nowhere, they took up arms to defend their rights. “It was the Kosova Liberation Army resorting to armed struggle in opposition to the desires of Ibrahim Rugova and the international community that in the end led to the intervention of the West and the ousting of Serbian forces from Kosova,” says William Montgomery, former US ambassador to Belgrade.

The former European great powers, which today continue to be the main actors on the European political scene, are - together with other powers - responsible for the current state of the Albanian nation. How can one expect that those same countries that brought about the partitioning of the Albanian-inhabited territories will solve the problems that the Albanians are facing at present? Now those states, which are partly guilty for the current division of the Albanian nation, are being put to the test - to see whether they will do something to atone for their past injustice. The test is whether they will assume their historic responsibility by endorsing and implementing the Ahtisaari plan. Perhaps President Bush wanted to remind the Europeans of this responsibility when he visited Tirana on 10 June, the anniversary of the Albanian League of Prizren.

The time has come for the Albanians to react as one nation and insist on the implementation of the Ahtisaari plan for which they made many concessions affecting their rights. Now, however, the Albanians should make no further concessions…if they see that attempts are being made to deny Kosova its independence or to partition it, then - wherever they happen to be, in Kosova, Macedonia, the Presheve [Presevo] Valley [in southern Serbia], or Montenegro - the Albanians should speak with one voice and call loudly for these regions to join Albania and for the formation of an Albanian national state in the Balkans.

It will depend on the international community whether the tectonic movements in Balkan geopolitics end up with the formation of a new state - an independent Kosova - or with a change of borders that will affect several Balkan states, that is, create a new geopolitical map of the Balkans.

Even circles that are none too well-disposed towards the Albanians expect - to a certain extent - a reunification of the Albanian nation. The day after Bush’s visit to Albania, the Greek daily Ethnos wrote that “almost half the Albanians live in the countries neighbouring Albania: Kosova, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Whether we like it or not, these people want to be unified in an Albanian state that will gather all Albanians within its borders, when the conditions are ripe.”

The conditions are now ripe. Steven Mayor, a professor at the US National Defence University, has said: “…The great powers, includingthe United States, must accept the existence of alternatives which initially they opposed and which now must be re-examined.”

To conclude, the time has come for the situation to be re-examined and, if attempts are made to deny Kosova its independence, or to partition it, the Albanians of Albania, Kosova, Macedonia, the Presheve Valley, and Montenegro must speak with one voice and call loudly for the formation of an Albanian national state. Only then will the continental shelf of Balkan geopolitics find peace and tranquillity.

And an earlier, more honest item this month, which doesn’t pretend the choice is between Kosovo or Greater Albania, but admits it’s going to be both either way, and that Kosovo independence is a step along the way:

Albanian daily says Kosovo independence to boost pressure for “Greater Albania” (Text of report by Albanian newspaper Albania, Aug. 12)

[Commentary by “Prestigj”: “Is ‘Greater Albania’ Beginning or Ending?”]

Many people across the world are saying that the archaic idea of a “Greater Albania” is dead. This they link with the Ahtisaari package for Kosova’s future status…European officials now are thinking that the “Greater Albania” saga is a closed chapter too…Apparently, the Ahtisaari package…[does] not allow Kosova to join Albania or, for that matter, Macedonia. The phrases are very clear and direct indeed…”the creation of a greater state such as, for example, Greater Albania, is not an idea of the time.”

Strangely enough, this time the Albanians of Kosova and Macedonia, or those of the Albanian diaspora or Montenegro, and also those of Albania — who have been singing and dreaming of the unification of Albanian territories — kept silent. They also kept silent when they saw themselves being barred from their dream by a package of conditions set by an envoy from Lenin’s Finland. Those who think that the Albanians have “forgotten” the idea of the unification of their territories or the idea of a Greater Albania are mistaken. Only those who do not know the Albanians well as a Balkan people may think like that. Those, however, who know the Albanians well think differently. And those who know the Albanians well are first and foremost their neighbours.

This time, however, when they saw that they were being denied their desire for “reunification”, the Albanians kept silent because they knew that the Ahtisaari package had a thousand and one loopholes through which they may slip to achieve the unification of their territories, that is, to establish a Greater Albania, and this without the assistance of the former Finnish president, indeed, even without the assistance of the United Nations. Only the ingenuousness — and the sincerity — of a cool-headed diplomat from a cold country working on cold diplomatic dossiers my jump to the conclusion that Kosova will not join Albania following the establishment of its status.

For their part, another category of people and intellectuals — especially those who live close to Albania — people with the same political mentality and political ethnography as the Albanians, considered all this to be a mere “self-induced deception.” There is no reason to doubt that, shortly after the establishment of “independent” status, or a status that does not rule out independence, a Greater Albania will be formed in the Balkans. Attentive analysts and specialists in Balkan affairs consider this a reality that will happen soon.

One cannot think that Kosova’s joining Albania is far off as long [as] “immediately after the establishment of the status there will be joint markets and joint beaches,” as the Albanians say. It cannot be imagined that a Greater Albania can be prohibited by a phrase contained in the Ahtisaari package. The Balkan people only smile at these phrases. Throughout their history, they have learned how to ignore the phrases of the great powers a thousand times a day. At the same time, the Balkan peoples have learned that protectorates imposed by the great powers are short-lived. That is how the Albanians read Ahtisaari’s phrase banning Kosova’s unification with Albania or Macedonia. They know that the West soon tires of the problems of their area, just as they know that the mills of time work very quickly in the mountains that have given their name to their peninsula. A little change would be enough for the West to desist from maintaining by armed force its ban on the unification of Albanian territories.

Deep down, the Albanians do not think that a long time will pass between the recognition of Kosova’s status and its joining Albania. Not only ordinary Albanians who spend much of their time talking nationalist politics, but also their senior politicians want that. This time, however, it was the politicians who came out with the idea of a Greater Albania. Just take up the letters of greetings they sent to Ahtisaari on 3 February, and you will clearly see what senior Albanian politicians — both in the government and in the opposition — really think. They greet the Ahtisaari package “with rejoicing” and add that “this is a victory for the Albanians wherever they happen to be.” Do you not see the hidden idea rearing its head?!

…Indeed, the Balkan states are like communicating vessels: if one of them is reformatted as a greater state, other states must necessarily become smaller. Will Serbia allow itself to become “smaller” just because Albania wants to be “greater”? Or, for that matter, will Macedonia allow that? Especially as Macedonia would have to cede some chunks of its territory to a Greater Albania. A chain reaction of transformation from smaller to greater would follow its Balkan course, as the world’s senior politicians are warning.

And another honest one from July: “‘Reunification’ of all Albanian lands ‘necessity’” - Albanian paper (BBC Monitoring Europe, July 3, Text of report by Albanian newspaper Ballkan on 2 July)

[Commentary by Mona Agrigoro: “Slav and Greek Deceptions Are Being Refuted”]

…The Front for the National Unification of Albanians [FBKSh] considers the Oher Accord [the Ohrid Agreement between Macedonia and Albanian terrorists] a disaccord destined to failure…it is an accord geared to the establishment of a coalition between the Slav occupiers and the Albanian-speaking collaborationists, an accord from which the latter have received only political positions and financial benefits, not state power. Just as in the past, state power in Macedonia is in the hands of the colonizers of over 16,000 square kilometres of Albanian land. The Albanian question is a question of colonial occupation, which is still unresolved due to the occupation and colonization of Albanian territories by the Serbs, Macedonian Slavs, Greeks, and Montenegrins ever since Kosova, the Vardar Valley (now under Macedonia), the Presheve [Presevo] Valley (now under Serbia), the Northern Highlands (now under Montenegro), and Cameria (now under Greece) were invaded by Serbia and Greece in 1912.

It must also be stressed that the Macedonian state, in its essence, is an artificial colonial state that did not exist before 1947 and that was formed only to repartition (for the second time, following the partitioning in 1913) the territories of natural Albania.

[Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio] Milosovski is just as ludicrous when he tries to separate the question of the Albanians of Kosova from that of the Albanians of Macedonia. There is no question of the Albanians of Macedonia, or the Albanians of Serbia, or the Albanians of Northern Highlands, or the Albanians of Greece, or the Albanians of Montenegro! There is only the question of the Albanians, as an indivisible nation whose liberation and reunification into a national Albanian state in the Balkans has become a necessity of the time if ever we want the Balkans to lose once for all time its powder keg appellation and if ever we want to have peace, security, and stability in Europe, which can be achieved only with the establishment of ethnic states, such as ethnic Albania, ethnic Bulgaria, ethnic Greece, and - why not? - ethnic Serbia.

*****UPDATE*****
Kosovo ex-prime minister Agim Ceku also does the Partition-or-Greater-Albania shuffle, a few months after the above post appeared: “Premier Ceku: Kosovo partition would create ‘Greater Albania’ issue” (DPA, Dec. 26)

Kosovo is ready for independence, the caretaker premier of Serbia’s breakaway province said Wednesday, warning that an attempt to divide Kosovo would create border issues in four countries.

While Serbia adamantly insists on sovereignty over Kosovo in its entirety, some scenarios being floated envisage a partition along the country’s main ethnic lines, into a small Serb north and its Albanian remainder.

However, Kosovo’s outgoing Prime Minister Agim Ceku said a partition would spell trouble throughout the region.

‘Albanians live in four countries other than Albania,’ he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. ‘If Kosovo is partitioned along ethnic lines, those would want to talk about uniting with Albania.’

Ethnic violence and guerrilla warfare has plagued all those areas, excluding Montenegro, and Albanian extremists have not abandoned the project of a so-called ‘Greater Albania’ with all their compatriots united in a single nation.

In southern Serbia and Macedonia Albanian insurgents maintained an occasionally brutal guerrilla campaign between 1999 and 2001, but violent incidents persist amid ethnic tension. […]